Reds: 3 players who could be optioned when Shogo Akiyama returns

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 27: Shogo Akiyama #4 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Minnesota Twins. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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Alex Blandino #0 of the Cincinnati Reds bats.
CINCINNATI, OH – APRIL 21: Alex Blandino #0 of the Cincinnati Reds bats. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Who heads to Louisville when Shogo Akiyama returns to the Reds lineup?

Shogo Akiyama will be back very soon. That means that a corresponding move must be made when the Japanese outfielder is reinstated from the injured list. There are any number of ways the Cincinnati Reds front office could go, but some make more sense than others.

Akiyama began the 2021 campaign on the 10-day IL with a hamstring injury. Heading into the season, the Reds outfield looked incredibly overcrowded. Now more than a month into the season,  that sentiment still holds true. In fact, with Tyler Naquin’s emergence, getting routine at-bats for the abounding number of hitters will be a challenge for David Bell.

Thankfully, the Reds finally came to their sense and have used former top prospect Nick Senzel as both an infielder and an outfielder. We saw Senzel start Opening Day in center field, but recently Bell has move the athletic University of Tennessee to different spots on the infield dirt as well.

So which direction will the Reds go when Shogo Akiyama is ready for action. Will GM Nick Krall swap out a position player even though Cincinnati is only carrying four bench bats for the time being? Will one of the team’s nine relievers get the axe? Let’s see which three players are most likely to be headed to Triple-A Louisville to begin the season.

1. Reds option Alex Blandino to Triple-A Louisville.

Alex Blandino has been a steady, yet unspectacular presence in the Cincinnati Reds lineup so far in 2021. Blandino, surprisingly to some, made the team’s Opening Day roster and has seen his fair share of playing time during the first month of the season. The former first-round pick has even started four games this season.

However, Blandino’s versatility on the diamond, and even his knuckleball on the mound, have not been enough to justify keeping the Stanford alum on the 26-man roster when Shogo Akiyama returns from injury.

Blandino’s last two pinch-hit appearances are enough to make Reds Country fume with anger. During the ninth inning of a one-run game on Saturday afternoon, Blandino never removed his bat from his shoulder and went down on strikes. During Sunday’s extra-innings affair, Blandino pinch hit for Sean Doolittle and went down on three straight pitches without swinging.

Blandino’s M.O. is that of a very patient hitter who knows the strike zone. However, over his last 13 at-bats, the 28-year-old doesn’t have a hit and has struck out seven times while only drawing three walks. If David Bell is looking for a position player to send down to Triple-A Louisville, Alex Blandino is the most likely option.